Netherlands - Mary Macgregor

Philip, the Prince

Philip, who at twenty-eight years of age had been made sovereign of the Netherlands, was born at Valladolid on the 21st May 1527. The birthday of the little Spanish prince was hailed with delight, not only by Charles V., but by the whole Spanish nation, for surely never before had babe been born to a more splendid inheritance. The country hastened to show its pleasure, and preparations to celebrate the event went on apace. These were, however, deferred by news that startled not only Spain, but Europe itself. The Pope, the great head of the Church, had been captured! Europe was ringing with the news. Rome had been sacked by the Spanish troops! Europe was holding her breath in horror as she listened to the tale. No time this for rejoicing on Spanish soil, even over the birth of so illustrious a prince, a time rather for shame over the brutalities of the Spanish soldiery, and for repentance at the insult to Holy Church and sacred city.

But not for long would Spain be baulked of her welcome to the little prince. Eleven months later, in the year 1528, the country found her opportunity.

The occasion was the recognition of the heir as lawful successor to the throne, and the ceremony was to take place at Madrid, where the Cortes, or Parliament, was used to assemble. Carried by his mother, the Empress Isabella, and accompanied by the Emperor, the royal babe was brought before the nobles, clergy, and commons, who hastened to take the oath of allegiance to their future lord. Thereafter the nation gave itself up to rejoicings. Towns and villages were lit up with brilliant illuminations, bonfires blazed on every hill. Throughout this land of quick-changing passions, sports and pastimes had their way.

The festivities were barely over when Charles V. left Spain, called away by the cares of his great possessions, nor did he see his little son again until he was seven years old. During his absence the Prince was in the care of his mother, and wisely and lovingly did she guard her boy; but when the Emperor at length returned, he formed a separate home for the Prince, that he might be under the immediate influence of the two tutors who were to direct his studies. With one, Siliceo, Philip learned Latin and Greek, and in these languages he could soon write, not only correctly, but with ease. French and Italian he also studied, but with these he never became familiar, nor did he, even in later days, often venture to converse in aught but Spanish. Siliceo was not long in winning the affection of his royal pupil, nor did he ever lose his goodwill, for in after days Philip raised him from the position of a humble clergyman to be one of the greatest dignitaries of the Church.

Of far different type was Don Juan de Zuniga, the tutor who taught Philip to fence, to ride, and to take part in the tilts and tourneys of his day, and who also urged his pupil to take part in the chase, believing the hardy exercise would strengthen his constitution. But neither then, nor when he grew older, was Philip fond of such recreations. Belonging to an ancient family, Don Juan de Zuniga was a courtier, with all the polish belonging to one familiar with courtly ways, and he was therefore fitted to teach the Prince the duties belonging to his royal station. But he could do even more for his pupil by the direct influence of his character, for, knowing well the power to be gained by flattery, Zuniga had yet never lost his love of truth, nor did he trifle with her, as the way of courtiers was.

Thus Philip, flattered on all sides, was never flattered by his courtier guardian. From him he heard only the truth, which, being unaccustomed to plain speaking, he was not always quick to appreciate. To the Emperor, however, Zuniga's honesty was his best qualification for the post to which he had appointed him, and he wrote to his son to honour and reverence his truth-speaking guardian. "If he deals plainly with you, it is for the love he bears you. If he were to flatter you he would be like all the rest of the world, and you would have no one near you to tell you the truth."

Thus under the influence of the gentle Siliceo, and the stronger influence of the truth-speaking Zuniga, Philip grew. A strange, unboylike boy, slow to speak, yet wise beyond his years when speech was necessary. No buoyant, generous prince winning the hearts of all who served him, but a cautious, reserved lad, serious, and at times almost melancholy, but already self-possessed and rarely off his guard.

When Philip was twelve, his mother, the Empress Isabella, died, and from that time the Emperor surrounded his young son with statesmen, that even thus early the Prince might gain some insight into the vast system of government which one day he would have to control. The Emperor being frequently called away from Spain, it became necessary to appoint a Regent to carry on the affairs of State. In 1541 Philip was appointed to this important post, which he held under a council of three, the Duke of Alva, whose very name in later years became a terror to the Netherlanders, being on this select council.

Charles, writing to his son of the new responsibilities which awaited him as Regent, refers to the Duke thus: "He is the ablest statesman and the best soldier I have in my dominions; consult him, above all, in military affairs, but do not depend on him entirely; in these or in any other matters. Depend on no one but yourself. The grandees will be too happy to secure your favour, and through you to govern the land. But if you are thus governed it will be your ruin. Make use of all, but lean on none. In your perplexities ever trust in your Maker. Have no care but for Him."

Philip, despite his grave and serious ways, had been indulging in the pastimes and pleasures of his age. Charles had heard of these indulgences, and his letter continues: "On the whole I will admit I have much reason to be satisfied with your behaviour. But I would have you perfect, and, to speak frankly, whatever other persons may tell you, you have some things to mend yet." The Emperor in distant lands, with the care of empires on his shoulders, was yet desirous to influence his son's still pliant character.

In 1542 Philip was engaged to Maria, the Princess of Portugal. A year later, the bride and bridegroom both being sixteen years old, arrangements for the wedding were completed. Maria set out from her father's palace in Lisbon for the ancient city of Salamanca, for it was there that the ceremony was to be performed. A splendid train, led by the most powerful lord in Andalusia, met the Princess on the borders of Spain. Even the mules which drew the litters were shod with gold. At Badajoz a palace was gorgeously adorned for the reception of the bride. Not only were the countless draperies of golden cloth, but sideboards and couches were of burnished silver. Thus sumptuous as the entrance into fairyland was the entrance into Spain of the young Princess. As she approached Salamanca a long procession came out to greet her. The University sent her rector and professors in their academic gowns; the judges followed in their robes of office—crimson velvet, with hose and shoes of spotless white; while gayest of all were the military in their glittering uniforms. Thus escorted, to the sound of music and the shouts of the populace, Princess Maria arrived at the gates of Salamanca.

Philip, meantime, with a burst of rare impatience, had sallied out of the palace, with a few attendants disguised as huntsmen. Five or six miles from the city they had met the procession, and Philip, with a slouched hat and face well hidden by a gauze mask, mingled with the crowd and pressed close to the side of the Princess. Thus, unknown to all, he caught his first glimpse of his bride, and, keeping pace with the procession, followed it to the gates of the city. The following day, November 12, the marriage was solemnised. Thereafter for a week the cloistered quiet of Salamanca was invaded by laughter and merriment. Tourneys and tilts of reeds were the fashion of the day, banqueting and dancing the order of the night. On November 19 Philip and his bride left the ancient city to its wonted tranquillity and proceeded to the palace at Valladolid. Here, two years later, was born the celebrated Don Carlos, and Maria died, leaving Philip, himself but a lad, alone with his infant son.

Meanwhile the Emperor, after a hard but successful career abroad, had withdrawn to Brussels. For six years he had seen but little of his son, and he now desired not only to see him, but to introduce to the Netherlanders the prince who would one day be their ruler. Instructions were therefore sent to Philip to come to Flanders after having reorganised his household on the Burgundian model. This would, Charles believed, flatter the Flemings, who had been accustomed to the pomp and grandeur of the former princes of that house. In obedience, therefore, to the orders of the Emperor, Philip remodelled his household, creating new positions, and placing in them nobles of the highest rank, filling even the more simple posts in his household with men of rank. Formerly he had dined alone, but now he dined in public and in great state, surrounded by nobles and attended by celebrated musicians and minstrels. But this change was pleasing neither to Philip nor to his Spanish nobles, to whom the simple customs of the Castilians were dearer than the grandeur and formality of the Burgundian court.

It was, then, in the autumn of 1548 that Philip began his journey, accompanied by a brilliant retinue. A Genoese fleet awaited the Prince at the nearest port, commanded by the veteran of many a battlefield, the world-famed Andrew Doria. Over the fifty vessels riding at anchor, the imperial flag flaunted gaily in the breeze. The passage to Genoa was accomplished in safety, though the fleet encountered stormy weather. A magnificent galley, in which were the doge and principal senators, came out beyond the port to welcome Philip. He landed amid the jubilation of the Genoese, and was lodged in the palace of the Dorias, a palace famous for the beauty of its architecture. While here, he received from the Pope, who foresaw in him a true champion of the Church, the gift of a consecrated sword, and also a hat worn by his Holiness on Christmas Eve.

A fortnight later Philip and his retinue resumed their journey. They crossed the battlefield of Pavia, where Francis I. had yielded himself a prisoner, and where the fortune of the day had been decided by the sally of a Spanish ambuscade—crossed it exulting in the generalship of their Emperor and the valour of his troops. From Pavia Philip passed on to Milan. Along a road spanned for fifty miles by triumphal arches the people thronged to meet the Prince. Nearer the town a special escort of two hundred gentlemen met him, clad in complete armour of the finest Milanese workmanship. After some weeks spent in festivities, but little pleasing to Philip, he said farewell to Milan and set out for the North.

In Germany he was joined by a body of two hundred mounted arquebusiers, wearing his own yellow uniform, and commanded by a Netherland noble, the Duke of Aerschot. These had been sent as an additional escort by his father. Everywhere along the route, by Munich, Trent, Heidelberg, multitudes crowded, anxious to catch at least a glimpse of the young prince who would one day wield the mightiest sceptre in Europe. After a journey of four months Philip at length reached Brussels. Here the enthusiasm of the people was unbounded. The expectant crowds vented their excitement in shouts and cheers, while amid the roar of cannon, the ringing of bells from every tower and steeple, Philip made his first entry into the land of the Netherlands.

Not till the public reception was over were Charles and Philip free to embrace. The separation between them had been a long one, and the father noted with pleasure the changes time had wrought on his son. Philip was now twenty-one, below medium height, slight and well-built. His likeness to his father was marked, though his features were of a less intellectual type. He had a fair, even delicate complexion at this time, blue eyes with eyebrows closely knit together, and with hair and beard of light yellow. His dress was suitable to his position, though devoid of ornament. In manner he was still, as in his boyhood, grave and ceremonious, and indeed his demeanour seemed to suit his slow, deliberate nature. And Charles, noting all these things, was well pleased with the appearance and manner of his successor.

After a long residence in Brussels, Philip prepared to carry out the object of his journey to the Netherlands. This was to make a tour through the Provinces, to receive proofs of the people's loyalty to him as to their future lord, and himself to learn something of their characters and country. There was indeed no lack of loyalty in the welcome accorded to the Prince. The Provinces vied with each other in the splendour of the reception they offered him. The joyous entrance prepared for him into Antwerp surpassed in outlay and in magnificence the welcome of all other towns save Brussels.

Philip, already surfeited by these displays, from which he was naturally averse, could not but be aware of the unparalleled efforts made by the citizens of Antwerp to welcome their future sovereign. A company of magistrates and notable burghers, "all attired in cramoisy velvet," and attended by pages in gorgeous liveries, followed by four hundred citizens and soldiers in full uniform, went forth from the city to receive him. In streets and squares triumphal arches, hung with fruit and flowers, abounded, and every possible form of respect and affection was lavished on the Prince and on the Emperor, who accompanied him. Charles V. responded with the cordiality which was well known and well loved by the people, but Philip's icy manner never thawed, nor did his haughty glance soften as he acknowledged these and similar transports of joy.

The result of the tour was not to add to Philip's popularity. The more the Netherlanders saw of him, the less did they like him; indeed there were those who could only speak of him as "detestable," as they compared his scornful manner with the easy familiarity of his father. And Philip encouraged the feeling of dislike which had been engendered, by obtruding on every occasion his foreign taste. His thoughts were Spanish, and were spoken aloud in that language. His friends and counsellors were of his own race, and he did not hesitate to let it be known that he found his absence from Spain disagreeable. There was therefore but little regret when the time came for Philip to leave the Netherlands.

He again sailed in the fleet of the famous Doria, and landing at Barcelona in July 1551, he hastened to Valladolid, there to resume the government of the country that was dear to him. His return was gladly welcomed by the Spaniards, to whom Philip was endeared by those traits which were characteristic of the national type.

Three years later, in 1554, the Prince again left Spain. He journeyed to England that the marriage arranged for him by Charles V. with Mary Tudor, Queen of that country, might be solemnised. Urged by the Emperor and Queen Mary of Hungary, Philip laid aside the cold and haughty air that had impressed the Netherlanders so unfavourably, and showed such "gentleness and humanity" on his journey to England that he charmed all whom he met. After landing at Southampton, Philip was escorted by the Earl of Pembroke and a body of English archers to Winchester. As they proceeded the rain fell in torrents, and through the storm a cavalier was seen riding at full speed towards them. He brought a ring for Philip from Queen Mary, and an entreaty that he would not travel farther till the storm had spent itself. The Prince, not understanding English, and fearful of evil in a country where he was disliked by the populace, believed the cavalier had ridden to warn him of impending danger. He instantly drew up and consulted with the Duke of Alva and Egmont, who attended him. Seeing his dismay, one of the English courtiers rode up and explained the Queen's message. Relieved of his alarm, Philip no longer hesitated, but with his red cloak wrapped closely round him and a broad beaver slouched over his eyes, pushed doggedly forward in spite of the tempest, and that evening he met Mary for the first time. Two days later they were married in the Cathedral at Winchester, the ceremony lasting nearly four hours.

After a few days of feasting and merriment, Philip and Mary made their public entry into London. Philip, still with his conciliatory manner, gained greatly on the goodwill of the people. But his spirit, haughty as ever, could not easily brook the subordinate part which he was compelled to play in public to the Queen; for, despite Mary's wishes, the Parliament had never yielded so far as to consent to Philip's coronation as King of England. Nor was it without difficulty that he suited himself to the tastes and habits of the English. The effort to do so grew daily more irksome. For these reasons Philip, as also his followers, who cared as little as their master for the strange customs of the English nation, hailed with pleasure a summons from the Emperor to join him in Flanders. Mary prevailed on her husband to linger yet a few weeks in England. Thereafter, with a heavy heart, she accompanied him down the Thames as far as Greenwich, where they parted. Philip reached Flanders in safety, and proceeded to Brussels, there to be present at the abdication of the Emperor. It was at this great ceremony, as we have seen, that Philip became sovereign of the Netherlands. Nor was it long before the youthful ruler received from Charles V. the whole of his vast possessions.

Philip, ruler of the Netherlands, became also King of Spain and of both Sicilies. As to the father, so now to the son, belonged the arrogant title, "Absolute Dominator" in Asia, Africa, and America. He became Duke of Milan and both Burgundies, and if he had not the responsibilities of kingship, he had at least the title of King in England, France, and Jerusalem.